Saudi drivers, and more on the WEF Gender Gap report

Women in Saudi Arabia want to be free to drive their cars.  There’s a surprise.  From what I’ve read on the events of the last couple of days (which is not a lot), there has been a kind of Mexican stand-off, with the authorities not enforcing their ban on women drivers and the women not pushing it too far.  But this does look like some kind of crack opening up, which will be hard to paper over.

This takes me back to the World Economic Forum’s stimulating and rich Gender Gap report.  I posted on this yesterday, so you’ll of course remember that it uses 4 dimensions – economics, education, health and politics – to produce overall indicators of progress towards equality.    The PP-relevant point is to contrast the considerable progress across the  world towards educational equality with the very much slower progress towards economic equality.

Saudi Arabia ranks 134 out of 136 on the economic equality dimension.  It ranks 90th on the education dimension.  At first sight this doesn’t look too big a difference, but  to make sense of the information we need to distinguish between the scores and the rankings.  On education a large majority of the countries score over 0.90, and so they are bunched up at the top;  Saudi Arabia’s score is 0.976, and it’s only at the 110th ranking  that the scores drop below 0.9 (dividing, as it happens, Morocco from Tajikistan).

By contrast, countries are hugely more diverse on the economic dimension.  Only 8 score over 0.80 (and see yesterday’s for a critique of the measurement used at the top), and 52 over 0.70.    The median comes at 0.667 (dividing, wonderfully, Hungary  in the top half from Austria in the bottom half of the 136 countries – great material for a Joseph Roth novel).

Saudi scores just 0.32.  This confirms what we generally knew about this particular case.  But the important overall point is the size of the discrepancy between educational and economic equality.  The discrepancy may be much smaller in the UK and similar countries than it is in the Middle East, but it’s still a powerful reminder that educational achievement may be a necessary but is certainly not a sufficient condition for overall equality.

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